Green Public Procurement (GPP) is "a process whereby public authorities seek to procure goods, services and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their life-cycle when compared to goods, services and works with the same primary function that would otherwise be procured.”
Source: Communication (COM (2008) 400) “Public procurement for a better environment”
By using environmental criteria public authorities can buy electricity, transport services, office IT equipment, food and catering services and many other goods and services that contribute to the reduction of environmental impacts.
The concept of GPP has been widely recognised in recent years as a useful tool for driving the market for greener products and services and reducing the environmental impacts of public authorities’ activities. GPP concerns both:
The way we consume resources in the EU is causing environmental damage at a rate that cannot be sustained. Many concerns have been raised about the increasing consumption and production patterns, both internationally and at the European level. If the world as a whole followed the EU's pattern of consumption, global resource use could quadruple within 20 years. Apart from the resulting environmental and health problems, this trend could threaten economic growth due to decreasing natural resources and the cost of addressing these issues.
The public sector is the largest consumer in the economy. Government expenditure on works, goods and services represents around 14% of the EU’s gross domestic product (GDP), accounting for roughly EUR 1.8 trillion annually.
The 2006 "EIPRO – Environmental Impact of Products" study showed that products from these three areas of consumption (more precisely food and drink, housing and transport) together are responsible for 70-80% of environmental impacts of (private) consumption. 
While research and development is in progress to improve and deploy cleaner and more efficient technologies, it is also important to influence our consumption and production patterns so as to minimise the damage caused to the environment while maintaining an economic equilibrium at the same time. GPP was introduced as part of an effort to take some concrete steps in this direction.
 European Commission (2015) Public Procurement Indicators 2013. These figures exclude spending by utility companies; earlier estimates (2011) including utility procurement were of around 19% of EU GDP, accounting for more than EUR 2.3 trillion.
 Tukker, A. et al. (2006), Environmental Impact of Products (EIPRO) – Analysis of the life-cycle environmental impacts related to the final consumption of the EU-25 (for DG JRC/IPTS, European Commission)
Member States have been encouraged to draw up publicly available National Action Plans (NAPs) for greening their public procurement. The NAPs should contain an assessment of the existing situation and ambitious targets for the next three years, specifying what measures will be taken to achieve them.
The NAPs are not legally-binding but provide political impetus to the process of implementing and raising awareness of greener public procurement. They allow Member States to choose the options that best suit their political framework and the level they have reached.
Further information on NAPs
No, the EU GPP criteria have been developed as part of the voluntary approach to GPP endorsed in the communication Public procurement for a better environment (COM (2008) 400). This communication indicated a number of measures to be taken by the European Commission to support the implementation of GPP by Member States and individual contracting authorities.
The purpose of the EU GPP criteria is to identify the main environmental impacts of each of the products and services covered, and propose clear, verifiable and ambitious criteria to address these in the procurement process. They are not legally binding and encompass two separate levels – core and comprehensive. Member States are invited to include the criteria into their national GPP policies and individual contracting authorities to use them when procuring.
In practice, a number of Member States have either referenced the EU GPP criteria in their national action plans, or adopted criteria which reflect these quite closely.
Variations in the criteria adopted may reflect national differences in the market availability of products/services, approach to procurement and environmental and other priorities. Similarly individual contracting authorities may choose to adapt the criteria to meet their particular requirements. Individual contracting authorities can choose which criteria to apply, in the absence of specific national laws regulating this.
The EU GPP criteria are developed based on consultation with stakeholders and reflect the scientific and market knowledge available at the time of their publication. However in some cases contracting authorities may wish to either include or exclude certain elements. The EU GPP criteria are designed to be flexible in this way and do not remove the responsibility of the individual authority to act fairly, transparently and proportionately in determining which criteria to apply.
It is considered that by providing a common reference point based comprehensive assessment of environmental impacts, the EU GPP criteria contribute to the alignment of procurement practices in the absence of mandatory common criteria.
A number of studies have been undertaken to determine the extent of GPP implementation by EU contracting authorities.
A monitoring exercise was carried out in 2011 in which public authorities from 26 Member States participated. This aimed to identify the level of uptake of the core GPP criteria for ten product and service groups (cleaning products and services; construction; electricity; catering services and food products; gardening services and products; office IT equipment; copying and graphic paper; textiles; transport; and furniture.) The findings indicate that 26% of a sample of 1783 last contracts signed included all of the core EU GPP criteria, and 55% included at least one of the core criteria. Further details of the results and methodology are available here.
In 2009 a study was carried out looking at the impact of GPP in what were then the ‘Green 7’ countries (i.e. those with the highest rates of implementation) – Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. This found an average of 55% of contracts concluded in those Member States for ten product and service groups could be defined as green.
A 2010 study examined the approaches to GPP implementation in nine Member States plus Norway. As part of the overall review of EU public procurement legislation in 2011, an assessment of the strategic use of public procurement (encompassing environmental, social and innovation/industrial policy goals) was also commissioned.
The GPP News Alert is a monthly newsletter disseminated internationally via the GPP Helpdesk service. The News Alert provides a range of information on GPP from across the EU Member States. Each issue features an interview of an important stakeholder and at least two detailed examples of GPP in practice along with topical news and events.
Signing up to the GPP News Alert is easy and is done via the EUROPA mailing lists. Simply follow the instructions and links provided online.
When you purchase a product, service or work, you always pay a price. Purchase price, however, is just one of the cost elements in the whole process of purchasing, owning and disposing. Life-cycle costing (LCC) means considering all the costs that will be incurred during the lifetime of the product, work or service, More information is available here.
The most common misconception about GPP is that green products cost more. However, depending on how costs are considered, this may not necessarily hold true.
Green products can have a lower purchasing price as they have reduced impacts on the environment with often less energy and raw materials consumed and/or less waste generated so lower associated production costs. For example, the European Commission study on the “Costs and Benefits of Green Public Procurement in Europe” found that the purchasing costs for public authorities of green (including 100% recycled and eco-certified copying paper) and non-green copying paper are very similar. In Germany, “green” versions of copying paper appeared to be significantly cheaper (23%). In Sweden, the same study showed that environmentally friendly floor care, sanitary and window cleaning products were all less expensive than their conventional counterparts (74%, 82% and 9%, respectively). 
In addition, where a life-cycle costing (LCC) approach is taken to competing products or services, greener alternatives may be cheaper even where the initial purchase price is higher. This is even more likely to be true where an environmental LCC approach is applied. More detailed information on LCC in procurement is available here.
Good examples concern energy-using products, for which a “high” purchasing price is often more than compensated for by long-term savings. Depending on the product, the payback period may be as short as six months, for example in the case of energy efficient light bulbs.
If contracting authorities wish to ascertain which products are most cost effective for them then it is recommended that an LCC calculation is made and included as part of the contract award criteria.
A 2008 study on the impacts of GPP considered cost as one of four indicators . The financial impact of GPP was calculated by comparing the costs of a green product with those of a non-green product. The study took into account, where possible, costs that result from the purchase of a product or service, but also operational costs and costs for disposal (thus following the concept of conventional Life-cycle Costing). The study showed that in the “Green-7” countries , where on average 50% of purchases are green, the average financial impact of GPP in 2006/2007 was approximately -1.2%. Thus the study concluded that GPP can lead to cost reductions.
The main document the European Commission has issued is the Communication “Public procurement for a better environment”, part of the package of sustainability measures in the Sustainable Production and Consumption and Sustainable Industrial Policy (SCP/SIP) Action Plan.
The general objective of this Communication is to provide guidance on how to reduce the environmental impact caused by public sector consumption and how to use Green Public Procurement (GPP) to stimulate innovation in environmental technologies, products and services.
Further information on the Communication is available here.
A number of EU policies and strategies make reference to GPP or regulate areas which are linked to its implementation.
Brief descriptions of the most relevant policies, and links to further information, are available on this website in the following sections:
EU leaders adopted a voluntary target for GPP under the renewed Sustainable Development Strategy in 2006, stating that, by 2010, the average level of GPP should be the same as the level of the best performing Member States at the time (2006). In its 2008 Communication, the Commission proposed that, by 2010, 50% of all public tendering procedures should be "green". "Green" means tendering procedures must comply with endorsed common “core” GPP criteria.
The baseline for this target was a study “Green public procurement in Europe” (2005-2006) on GPP performance across EU Member States, which indicated the current levels of GPP in the seven best performing Member States (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and United Kingdom). This study also identified the most suitable product groups for immediate greening. 
This target has been confirmed as realistic by a 2009 study on the Collection of Statistical Information on GPP in the EU.  It showed that in the seven best performing Member States on average 45% of the total procurement value and 55% of the total number of procurement contracts included environmental considerations for the years 2006/07 in ten GPP priority sectors.
 Take 5 Consortium, Green Public Procurement in Europe: Conclusions and Recommendations (2006)
 PriceWaterHouseCoopers, Ecofys and Significant (2009), Collection of statistical information on Green Public Procurement in the EU
The Commission has:
Launched a programme to train GPP experts and raise awareness about GPP in EU Member States which took place between 2006 and 2010.The first round of events took place in 2006 and were held in Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The second round of events (2009-2010) served to train 40 national experts from 19 countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain) through train the trainers programmes. Top
GPP depends on clear, justifiable and ambitious environmental criteria for products and services. A number of national criteria and approaches to GPP have been developed. However, as the use of GPP increases, the criteria used by Member States should be compatible to avoid a distortion of the single market and a reduction of EU-wide competition. Establishing a single set of criteria could considerably reduce the administrative burden for economic operators and for public administrations implementing GPP. Common GPP criteria are of particular benefit to companies operating in more than one Member State, as well as to SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) whose capacity to adapt and manage different procurement procedures is limited.
Quantitative indicators can be used to assess the uptake and progress of the policy, by comparing the level of GPP -expressed in number and value of green tendering procedures- with the overall level of public procurement.
In 2011, the Commission has conducted a survey to monitor the GPP situation in all the Member States. A tendering procedure was considered "green" if it has resulted in a contract which complies with "core" GPP criteria. The results have been published here.
More information on indicators and monitoring can be found in the 2008 Communication.
Every year billions of euros are spent under the EU's Cohesion Policy for regional development and economic and social cohesion throughout Europe. For the 2007-13 programming period (with a total budget of €308 billion), sustainable development was reconfirmed as one of the most important principles of the Cohesion Policy.
Many other EU funding programmes exist, such as for instance the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), which bundles research-related EU initiatives. It set aside a maximum overall amount for Community financial participation of EUR 50 521 million for the period 2007 – 2013. Whilst most of this money would finance core research activities which are not relevant for GPP, the overheads of the projects (covering a maximum of 7% of grants) would be suitable for “greening”.
Where these funds are spent directly by public authorities and the latter carry out procurement procedures to implement the funded projects, the Commission considers that GPP could easily be incorporated. A focused action where managing authorities and other beneficiaries of EC funding would be strongly recommended to use GPP for the implementation of EC funded projects, would create an important incentive for the overall uptake of GPP, as those projects cover an important part of total public procurement expenditure. Such a practice by Member States, particularly those where GPP is lower than average, would contribute to their reaching the 50% target of GPP in their procurement procedures.
Source of information: the Communication on Green Public Procurement “Public procurement for a better environment” (Section 5.2.1)
Green product or service alternatives are not always obvious or well-advertised. Performing a market analysis or conducting a dialogue with potential suppliers can help to establish the appropriate GPP approach for a particular requirement.
There are a number of ways to do this which respect the EU procurement rules and in particular the principles of transparency and non-discrimination. Here we would recommend that you consult the section of this website called Dialogue with the Market.
In addition, for certain product groups such as energy-efficient appliances, and vehicles and lighting, information about the market availability of greener product alternatives in a number of EU countries is available via the Euro Topten portal. Energy-efficient office equipment which meet the Energy Star criteria can be checked here.
Public procurement in the European Union is subject to a number of sources of EU Community law:
In addition there are a number of sources of interpretation of the relevant laws and principles, such as the Buying Green handbook and European Commission's Interpretative Communications.
Further information on each of these sources is available under the section Legal Framework of this website. Top
Under the EU Procurement Directives (2014/24/EU and Directive 2014/24/EU) eco-labels may be used in public procurement to help a purchaser define the technical requirements of their purchase and/or to help them check compliance with these requirements. For more details about the usability of eco-labels in public procurement, please consult the Buying Green Handbook, especially section 3.5.1. here.
Any organisation (public or private) wishing to improve its overall environmental performance can decide to run an environmental management system (EMS). EMSs are organisation-related tools, aimed at improving overall environmental performance of the committing organisation. In regards to GPP, they are typically relevant when it comes to the use of natural resources (e.g. water and energy), staff training, using greener production methods and purchasing greener office materials. In terms of public procurement procedures, under the EU public procurement directives (2014), EMS can be used to formulate requirements in various phases of a purchasing proceess, particulary to screen the technical ability (in the 'selection' phase) of a bidding company/supplier and/or during the 'award' phase.
An organisation running an EMS may request certification under one of the two main environmental management systems in use in the EU: the ‘Eco-management and audit scheme’ (EMAS) or the European/international standard on environmental management systems (EN/ISO 14001). The EMAS scheme is primarily used by organisations with a site in the EU or in the European Economic Area, although it can also be used by organisations and sites located elsewhere (but is always verified under the control of a European Accreditation Body). The ISO scheme is open to organisations across the globe.
More information on the use of an EMS for GPP is available in sections 4.3.2 and 5.2.4 in the Buying Green Handbook (third edition).
The EU Energy Star programme is a voluntary energy labelling programme adopted jointly by the Government of the United States and the European Union (EU) to co-ordinate energy labelling of office equipment and promote the manufacture of energy-efficient equipment. The EU Energy Star Regulation (106/2008) requires EU institutions and central government bodies and agencies in the Member States to use energy efficiency criteria no less demanding than those defined in the Energy Star programme when purchasing the covered categories of office equipment. This applies to supply contracts valued above the threshold for application of the EU procurement directives.
Regulation (EU) (174/2013) was published on 5 February 2013 and amends Regulation (EC) (106/2008). The amendment serves to update the energy-efficiency criteria applicable under a revised US/EU agreement, and to coordinate Energy Star with other EU energy-efficiency and environmental initiatives (the Energy Efficiency Directive; the EU Ecolabel; the Energy Label and the Ecodesign Directive). It also clarifies that other existing and new voluntary energy efficiency labelling schemes for office equipment products in the EU Member States may co-exist with the Energy Star programme.
The specific criteria underlying the label for each product category and a database of products are available on the EU Energy Star website. Covered products include: computers, displays, imaging equipment, uninterruptible power supplies and enterprise servers.
Directive 2009/33/EC on Clean and Energy Efficient Road Transport Vehicles aims at a broad market introduction of environmentally-friendly vehicles. It requires that energy and environmental impacts linked to the operation of vehicles over their whole lifetime are taken into account in all purchases of road transport vehicles.
Two options are offered for public authorities to meet the requirements: setting technical specifications for energy and environmental performance, or including energy and environmental impacts as award criteria.
The Directive also defines a methodology for calculating the operational lifetime costs of a vehicle.
Further information is available on the Clean Vehicles Directive website.
The EU GPP criteria for transport (updated in 2012) aim to provide a common basis for developing specifications and other procurement criteria which can be directly applied by contracting authorities throughout the EU, and which address the main environmental impacts as set out in the Technical Background Report. The updated criteria take into account the obligations set out in the Clean Vehicles Directive (2009/33/EC).
The Clean Vehicles Directive requires that contracting authorities take into account the lifetime emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, non-methane hydrocarbons, particulate matter and energy consumption in any purchase of road transport vehicles above the EU thresholds. This can be done through setting maximum values in the technical specifications and/or awarding higher marks to vehicles with lower lifetime emissions/energy consumption. Ensuring equal treatment and the comparability of tenders is paramount – so contracting authorities must clearly describe the approach they will apply in the tender documents. Different Member States have implemented the Directive in different ways, so contracting authorities should check their national regulations.
Common EU GPP criteria are those criteria that can be incorporated into a public procurement procedure for goods, services or works in order to reduce the environmental impact of the purchase. GPP criteria have been developed for priority products and services that have been identified as most suitable for "greening" through public procurement. Please visit the GPP criteria background and approach section of this website for more information about the policy and practical approach behind designing the EU GPP criteria.
The criteria are designed with public bodies operating in the EU under the requirements of the European public procurement directives in mind. Criteria sets offer two types of criteria for each sector covered:
The priority sectors for implementing GPP were selected through a multi-criteria analysis conducted in 2006*. The criteria included: scope for environmental improvement; public expenditure; potential impact on suppliers; potential for setting an example to private or corporate consumers; political sensitivity; existence of relevant and easy-to-use criteria; market availability and economic efficiency.
The identification of priority sectors was also informed by the EIPRO study carried out by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the Commission in 2006. EIPRO aimed to identify the products consumed in the EU having the greatest environmental impact from a life-cycle perspective. Environmental impact was assessed under a number of different headings (e.g. acidification, toxicity, global warming, ozone depletion) for almost three hundred product categories.
EIPRO Full Report
* Take 5 Consortium, Green Public Procurement in Europe: Conclusions and Recommendations (2006)
The new procedure for GPP criteria development established in 2010 aims to make the process more transparent and participatory, and enhance synergies among different product-related policy instruments such as GPP, Ecodesign, EU Ecolabel and Energy label.
The GPP process will to large extent follow the structure of the EU Ecolabel criteria-setting procedure. It will provide stakeholders with the possibility to comment on the background studies and draft GPP criteria at several stages of the process.
In this context an informal GPP Advisory Group (AG) has been established. The AG acts as a consultative body for GPP criteria development. Its task is to assist the Commission to set up a work plan for criteria development and to evaluate GPP criteria and related reports in the final stage of the criteria development process. The AG is composed of one representative per Member State as well as four representatives of stakeholders (i.e. civil society, industry and SMEs).
You can find more information about the GPP criteria development procedures here.
EU GPP criteria cover an extensive range of product groups and sectors. As of June 2010, a new procedure was put in place regarding the development of new categories of GPP criteria or revision of existing criteria. The work programme for the development and revision of GPP criteria is available online and provides target completion dates, lead organisations and other information.
The GPP criteria have been designed with the requirements of the EU procurement rules in mind. However individual contracting authorities must ensure that their use of the criteria, like all requirements in tender documents, respects the laws and principles which apply.
For instance, the following principles should be taken into account in using GPP criteria:
When defining the subject matter of a contract, contracting authorities have great freedom to choose what they wish to procure (see the Buying Green Handbook, p.14). Including environmental or social considerations in the subject matter of the contract is allowed, provided that this is done without affecting access to that contract by other EU operators (see also COM(2001) 566 final -pages 6-7). In other words, the contracting authority may decide what it wants to buy (e.g. furniture made of sustainable wood instead of plastic, metal, etc.) or set sustainability criteria only for the wooden parts of the furniture and not for the other materials as long as the subject matter of the contract and the technical specifications are not formulated in such a way as to discriminate against suppliers from other Member States.
Otherwise, if the subject matter and the technical specifications are defined in such a way that they do not favour particular producers, it can be considered that the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination are respected. In this case contracting authorities may require that the furniture be made of sustainable wood instead of other materials or to set sustainability requirements only for the wooden parts of the furniture and not for the other materials used.
The Handbook on Environmental Public Procurement ‘Buying green!’ has been designed to help public authorities successfully plan and implement GPP.
It explains the possibilities offered by EU law (2014 public procurement directives) in a practical way, and looks at simple and effective solutions that can be used in public procurement procedures. The Handbook offers concrete and clear guidance, as well as practical examples, on how to include environmental considerations in a tender procedure at all stages of the procurement and process, including the pre- and post-procurement stages. The third edition of the Handbook was published in April 2016.
In planning GPP, contracting authorities need to consider all stages of a procurement procedure and examine where it is most appropriate to insert environmental considerations. Each case is specific. Examples of what is possible for public procurers to do at each stage are given below.